Epic Chef is the latest game from Team17 who brought us games like Overcooked! and Yooka-Laylee. Epic Chef is about the adventures of Zest and his quest to become the best cook in town.
The game starts off with our protagonist Zest who was lucky enough to buy a piece of land and house in Ambrosia. Little did he know that people in Ambrosia consider it to be cursed. He didn’t seem to mind because the land is huge and he doesn’t really believe in the supernatural. On a side note, be prepared for your eardrums to be shattered as the sound can be too loud when you start the game. I already had the master volume at 80 and the sound still seems pretty loud.
On his second day at the place, he heard a ruckus beside the house and found a Golem who told him to do a few things. This is where Zest’s adventures begins. We are then taught the basics on the core mechanics of the game. This entails planting and harvesting crops, building machines and contraptions, and cooking and eating food.
The controls can be confusing at first but once you get used to it, it can be smooth sailing from there. Later in the game, you will be taught about different activities that you can do on the island. One of which is fishing. I didn’t fully understand the fishing mechanic at first but with a bit of practice I was able to get a hang of it. The game gives you a lot of freedom to discover and learn things on your own even at the expense of losing something. They always say experience is the best teacher and it rings true in this game.
Another core feature of Epic Chef is the cooking battle. Think of it like Iron Chef or Master Chef whichever cooking show you have watched. Each cooking battle is different from each other. A cooking battle is a battle between two chefs with a judge who will taste the food. The number of dishes to cook can vary and are usually more than one if you are battling a licensed chef.
Your main goal in every cooking battle is to impress the judge and gain the most points. Getting points is determined by a few factors. There’s the base points that you can get by making sure your dish has 3 things, Vigor, Spirit and Sophistication. The base points can then get affected by other factors that will either multiply the amount of points you get for each or turn your points into negatives. These are affected by the sauce you use for your dish.
Each dish can only have three ingredients and 1 sauce. You also need to make sure to not cook your food for too long, otherwise smoke comes out and deducts points from your dish. The judges will also have their preference and will either add points if you get it right, or deduct points if you happen to serve them with a dish they don’t like. This mostly affects your cooking as I doubt the NPC will make a mistake. However, the sauce that you add can help you to deduct points from your opponents too.
I like how elaborate they make all this conditions in the cooking battle. It makes for exciting and rewarding challenges that will test your puzzle solving skills. And believe me, it’s not as easy as it looks. But if you have prepared enough or if you are high level enough, I’m pretty sure each cooking battle will be a breeze. That could very well lead to grinding as you’d want to have the best possible dish to cook during the cooking battles.
What’s frustrating though is if you lose a minor battle you lose your ingredients for good and you’d have to collect and harvest ingredients again. However, losing a major battle will take you back to the last day you saved letting you keep all the ingredients you may have lost from that battle. They actually cleverly come up with a way for it to make sense. And it’s with how you were just “dreaming” that you lost and so it wakes you up from that nightmare to start anew.
What I don’t like though is that because it takes you back to the last day that you saved, you’d have to go through all the dialog that you did previously prior to the start of the major battle. If you’re like me who suck at getting a win on the first try, it’s going to be a very boring and annoying dejavu of dialogs. You can’t even skip on any of these sequences so you are forced to sit through all of it. It’s punishment enough that you lost but going through all that dialog again is just rubbing salt to the wound. Add to that that you can’t actually manually save at any point of the game. You would need to “sleep” so that you can save your progress.
Further in the game, you will then start to own a restaurant that you will have to manage. You will need to think about decorations and the food you serve. Luckily, your customers will provide feedback on what they like and don’t like. This allows you to update your restaurant ensuring that negative feedbacks are fixed and good feedbacks to be maintained. Improving your restaurant will allow you to attract more customers and in return more money for you to earn.
One of the things I feel that needs to be fixed are the behavior of the summoned cows. You see, when you summon a cow in Epic Chef, they are hungry by default. And a hungry cow only has one thing in mind, to find food to eat. Where do they find food you ask? Your crops of course. They beeline straight away to your crops and boy do these cows know how to run. It doesn’t help that Zest has stubby little feet because he sure can’t outrun the cow once it starts running towards the crops. I really don’t understand why they are hungry when summoned. Maybe they were brought back from the dead or was pulled off from wherever they came from just before eating. In any case, I wish they would change this behavior or your crops are as good as gone the minute those cows show up.
The characters in Epic Chef are actually quite very entertaining. The interactions that they have with Zest are a delight to watch so kudos to the writers for making those lines. They were fun to read and made this game fun to play. The graphics can be a little amateurish but the expressions on the faces of the characters are on point and will totally depict what they are feeling. What makes it funnier is that whatever Zest feels towards a certain character, I would have the same feelings towards them.
Traversing the island of Ambrosia can be quite frustrating at times. For one, you don’t have a minimap to indicate where you are in the island or where you need to go. There are arrows however that can point you to the right direction and the quest markers also show up letting you know how close or far you are from the quest marker. Another thing is the camera. Like in most games, camera rotation can be frustrating to work with, and it’s no different here. Once you get too close to a wall, the camera just becomes glitchy and you’ll see it cutting off the plane showing you blank spaces and such.
Overall, I did not expect that I would have fun playing Epic Chef but it surprised me in so many ways. The cooking battle were just fun to pass up on and regardless of how frustrating it can get, winning them feels so rewarding. Despite the things I find wrong about this game, it was still a memorable and enjoyable experience. I found myself getting immersed in its world for hours on end. Perfecting my dish so I can win the cooking battle. If you’ve ever dreamed of participating in cooking shows or just like cooking games in general, then this is something you might want to consider playing.